Understanding the nutrient chemistry and ecology of water bodies, and the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients through ecosystems is often obtained at relatively small experimental scales. They are rarely applicable in other systems or over longer time periods. Catchment managers have had to either fund the development of bespoke solutions, use knowledge acquired from inadequate monitoring, or another catchment, or run catchment- models not designed for the system of interest. The challenge was to develop a new approach to support the policy, operational and evidence needs of catchment managers that allows transfer of knowledge between systems and scales, and better knowledge exchange between scientists and stakeholders.
Cloud computing was used to bring together the datasets and develop the modelling structures needed to improve national capability in catchment science. This provided an efficient platform for transferring knowledge on biogeochemical behaviours from data-rich to data-poor catchments. It also supports the robust re-use of data and models, and the integration of data streams from multiple agencies within a user-friendly, cloud-computing enabled decision support system.
The biogeochemical modelling development delivered the first cloud-enabled national modelling framework to support ensemble modelling of nutrient flux to UK waters under changing climate and land use. This provides stakeholders with the capacity to evaluate the likely impact of adaptation and mitigation measures on the nutrient chemistry of any water body in the UK.
The results from the biogeochemical modelling were further developed into a web-based portal. This supported visual interpretation of the results. It also showed how such national capability in biogeochemical modelling of catchment systems could be enhanced using cloud computing resources, thus supporting upscaling of knowledge from a 4km2 grid to national scale, policy-relevant reporting units.
There are many benefits to using cloud-computing to enhance national scenario testing capability for business and Government. One is to explore policy-driven questions and operational decision support for UK waters. This capability was demonstrated by the testing of nutrient flux behaviours across the UK grid under a suite of mitigation scenarios such as “good farming practice” and “farming for WFD”. This demonstrated the value of running nutrient flux models at grid scale through a cloud-computing-enabled modelling platform. It provided the capability for stakeholders to assess water security futures in the context of existing and potential future nutrient flux policy and management.
A next step is to develop ensemble biogeochemical modelling capability by embedding existing models and tools within the framework; then to undertake uncertainty analysis of the biogeochemical models against high resolution datasets from the UK research platform and identify priority areas for further scientific research to reduce these uncertainties. There is also a need to develop dynamic linking of the biogeochemical modelling tools with the ensemble hydrological modelling tools to further improve predictive capability of water quantity and quality for science and policy support.